North Texas Daily

Spring football game promises fundamentals, not fireworks on Saturday

Spring football game promises fundamentals, not fireworks on Saturday

Freshman quarterback Mason Fine throws the ball during a scrimmage. Fine had a total of 1572 yards in 10 games last season.

Spring football game promises fundamentals, not fireworks on Saturday
April 03
18:20 2017

The annual glorified scrimmage known as the spring game is almost upon us, and on Saturday at Apogee Stadium, the public will get a taste of what North Texas players and coaches have been working on for the past several weeks.

It will be the first time students and fans have seen the Mean Green on the field since their Heart of Dallas Bowl appearance over three months ago, and excitement is high. But as North Texas puts the finishing touches in preparation for the scrimmage, it’s important to remember one thing.

Don’t expect to see the Mean Green tee it high and let it fly.

“The spring game is more about fundamentals,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “It usually gets watered down a little bit. We don’t show as much. Spring is more about going out there and competing.”

The competition aspect will still motivate players on both sides of the ball, just as it has throughout the spring. Players fighting for scholarships and spots on the depth chart will lay it all on the line Saturday in hopes of impressing the coaches.

But once the scrimmage ends Saturday, North Texas will get most of the spring semester and summer off before returning in August for fall camp.

Even though a much-needed period of rest is on the horizon, players still want to make the most of the spring game.

“I’m looking forward to it a lot,” sophomore quarterback Mason Fine said. “It’s going to be fun. We’re going to have a great time. It’s our last chance [to play] before fall camp.”

For some players, the spring game is the first action they have seen in quite some time. Sophomore defensive tackle Bryce English is one of those players, and has yet to suit up for the Mean Green after transferring from Kansas State University last season.

And he is itching to get back on the gridiron.

“It’s the first time my friends and family can finally come and see me play in a college setting,” English said. “I look forward to seeing everybody here and just competing.”

English is a part of the unit dubbed the deepest and most talented on the team by Littrell — the defensive line.

After lacking depth up front last season and failing to pressure the quarterback, North Texas’ defensive line appears to have the manpower necessary to make an impact in their 3-4 defense. The rest of the defense, however, appears relatively thin, especially at the back in the secondary.

Moments after watching his defense get torched in the final scrimmage before the spring game, defensive coordinator Troy Reffett aired his concerns about the defense moving forward.

“The D-line is the only spot where there’s quality depth,” Reffett said. “At some positions we don’t have any competition because we don’t have any depth. Everywhere else on defense we’re so thin there’s not near the competition that I’d like to have.”

Entering the spring game, Reffett’s defense will be tested by an offense led by Fine and senior running back Jeffery Wilson, who at times were quite the tandem in 2016. Although Littrell’s goal is to focus on fundamentals, Fine wants to be sure to put pressure on the defense and keep scoring.

Especially now that they are on display for everyone to see.

“I just want to see us move the ball up and down and keep rolling,” Fine said. “Our goal Saturday is to come here and be more consistent.”

For both sides, weekly scrimmages have allowed them to gauge where they are at individually and as a unit — a pivotal part of spring practice they hope will translate into success come September. To do this, coaches put the team in specific down and distance scenarios to prepare them for anything.

From the two-minute drill to being backed up against their own goal line, Littrell throws everything at his team, knowing it will pay off in the long run.

“[Scrimmages] put you in different situations,” Littrell said. “Just putting these guys in different situations and being able to go back and teach them on film is always great.”

Although it’s lamented as a game, the spring game will be nothing like a regular contest. It will not be broken up into two separate teams of offense and defense, and instead, will just be a continuous back and forth of offense and defense.

In an attempt to make the game more fun and intriguing for fans, Littrell has made a few unconventional changes.

The defense can earn points on things such as turnovers, three-and-outs and negative yardage plays — an installation Littrell hopes will lead to a more competitive vibe.

“This year we’ll do a little more of a game atmosphere,” Littrell said. “We’ll have four quarters [and] probably a running clock in the second half.”

While the coaches won’t dive deep into their playbook and pull out their bag of tricks, to players like English, none of that matters. The goal is the same as it is in every scrimmage.

Win the game and talk some trash to friends afterwards.

“Once we get in the locker room, there are bragging rights,” English said. “It’s all about competing. We talk a lot of trash, we get after it, but we’re all family at the end of the day.”

Featured Image: Freshman quarterback Mason Fine throws the ball during a scrimmage. Fine had a total of 1572 yards in 10 games this past season. Sara Carpenter

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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